‘HitnRUN Phase Two’: An Oral History Of Prince’s Last Studio Album
For Eryn Allen Kane it was like hearing the voice of God on the phone. It was the spring of 2015, and the Detroit-born newcomer’s presence had been requested by music royalty: Prince Rogers Nelson. As she sat nervously in the main recording studio of Paisley Park, the surreal moment hit her. “I’m actually talking to Prince,” Kane still recalls with awe. “Prince says, “Hello Eryn…” All I could say was, “Hi…” [Laughs] And then he says, “Are you well rested?” And I’m not because I was up all night thinking about how the fu*k I was going to make this happen.”
Prince had fallen under the spell of Kane’s buttery soulful voice and thought she would be perfect for a politically charged song he was working on called “Baltimore.” The Grammy and Oscar winning superstar was inspired to pen the song following the April 2015 Baltimore riots sparked by the tragic death of an unarmed black man Freddie Gray while in custody of the police. The city burned with anger. Black Lives Matter was the rallying cry. Prince was moved to contribute something…anything. “Are we gonna see another bloody day?/We’re tired of the crying’ and people dying’/Let’s take all the guns away,” Prince implored. Both Freddie Gray and Mike Brown are name checked as symbols of a polarizing, traumatic two summers. Black lives mattered to Mr. Nelson.
“It meant the world to me to be a part of a song like “Baltimore,” Kane beams with pride. “I think as artists it’s our duty to capture this time. Our music should be little time capsules of what’s going on around us. I think Prince asking me to do such a song on a very serious topic, just to stand up for something…I was thrilled.”
“Baltimore” would be the last song Prince recorded for his final studio album HitnRUN Phase Two. June 7th would have been Mr. Nelson’s 58th birthday, nearly a month since his Royal Badness was taken away from the world on April 21, 2016. The headlines screamed a reported drug overdose due to painkillers. A recently released autopsy claims Prince died of an accidental overdose of opioid fentanyl. Yet, years of touring had taken a toll on the slight 5’3 frame of arguably the most gifted artist in all of pop music history.
But before his tragic death, Prince was a man on fire. From 2011 to 2015, the celebrated visionary who had sold over 100 million albums highlighted by such landmark works as Dirty Mind (1980), 1999 (1982), Purple Rain (1984), Sign ‘O The Times (1987) and Diamonds and Pearls (1991), was on a prolific streak. Prince would end up releasing four studio albums during this relentless period: 2014’s 3rdEyeGirl featured Plectrumelectrum and Art Official Age and 2015’s HitnRUN Phase One and Phase Two. While most artists of his unimpeachable status would have been content with resting on his seemingly endless catalogue of hits, Prince still had something to prove.
The music maverick that once cheekily proclaimed that the Internet was dead, confounded his critics when he announced that he would be releasing HitnRUN on Shawn “Jay Z” Carter’s much maligned Tidal music streaming service. Not only that, Tidal would have the rights to stream Prince’s entire studio output, a move that was met with headline-making shock. But as usual, the fiercest advocate for artist’s rights and music ownership was thinking three steps ahead.
“My thing is this…the catalog has to be protected,” Prince said during a 2015 Ebony interview when he was asked about his surprising move to partner up with Hov. “And some of our fans were actually disingenuous. Taking the time to get their playlists together and yeah, it’s gone. Now you got to actually go subscribe to get the music that you lost on Spotify. Spotify wasn’t paying, so you gotta shut it down.” Jay Z even added his sentiments via a guest spot on arguably 2016’s summer anthem, “All The Way Up (Remix)” by Fat Joe and Remy Ma, with the triple entendre lines, “Prince left his masters where they are safe and sound/We never gonna let the elevator take us down!”
The HitnRUN period would produce mixed results. While Phase One, the first Prince album to be touched by an outside producer (energetic keyboardist and protégé Joshua Welton), was met with polarizing criticism from some of the hardcore Purple faithful due to its contemporary R&B and rap leanings, the more throwback Phase Two quenched the thirst.
Being in the studio with Prince felt like two friends hanging out. — Ledisi
VIBE tracked down the talented people behind Prince’s final studio curtain call. From all accounts, the man, who just days before his death was putting on some of his best live shows of his 30 plus year career with the Piano & A Microphone tour, was as possessed by the music monster as ever.
This is the Oral History of Prince’s HitnRUN Phase Two.
Come To The Park And Play With Us (Fall, 2011-Winter 2012)
Andrew Gouche (Bassist and musical director. Recently released the solo album We Don’t Need No Bass.): I met Prince when I was the musical director for Chaka Khan. We opened up for him in 2011. He saw our show in North Carolina and he literally came running backstage looking for me after he saw our show. Prince was like, “Awe, man, dude you were killing it! Who did the arrangements?” He was talking to me like I was Prince! So that same year, Chaka, out of nowhere, fired her whole band. And literally the week after Chaka fired us in December of 2011, Prince’s keyboard player Cassandra O’Neal called me up and said, “Prince wants to know if he can have your number. He wants to call you.”
The next day he called me. Prince told me. “I’m going to be doing some things in 2012 and I want to know if you want to be involved?” He asked if I could come to Minneapolis and I instantly said yeah. I hung up and his assistant calls me back in five minutes and says, “Prince wants to know if you can come tomorrow.” [Laughs] So I gave her all of my information and literally 10 minutes later I get an email from Delta. In my mind I was just going to get an exit row aisle seat, but then when I looked at my reservation it said First Class. That’s when it hit me…Okay, this is that other world.
Michael B. Nelson (Trombonist, horn and string arranger, and leader of the Hornheads): I had no idea that I was going to be working with Prince in my career. Being from Minneapolis, the connection with him happened because of the relationship I had with Michael Bland, Prince’s ex-drummer from first New Power Generation. Before we began working on [HitnRUN Phase II], I first met Prince back in 1991 when he was rehearsing for the Diamonds and Pearls tour. The Hornheads worked with Prince from 1991 to 2001. When he called us again in 2011, we started recording tracks for an artist he was producing named Andy Allo. And then we did a bunch of stuff that eventually ended up on Phase II. The first track we worked on was “Xtraloveable.”
Justin Stanley (Studio engineer, drummer, producer and husband of alternative soul singer Nikka Costa.): “Xtraloveable” was an old school, classic Prince track that dated back to the ‘80s. Prince would sometimes pull tapes out of the Vault (The Purple One’s mythical heavily secured library rumored to contain thousands of unreleased songs, videos and concert footage). He would bring them in and put them in the tape machine. Until the end, Prince was still using analog tape. He would only go to Pro Tools at the end of a session. He used the tapes to get him inspired. He was always reinventing and taking inspiration from those tapes in the Vault.
I was a lot luckier than a lot of studio engineers that ended up working with Prince over the years. Because I was lucky enough to have a friendship with him before I started to work on [HitnRUN Phase II]. I could actually have a viewpoint on something he was doing creatively. You would hear all the classic stories that he wouldn’t even talk to engineers. That’s not to say that I had a lot of advice to give to someone like Prince. Because, let’s face it, he’s Prince [laughs]. He didn’t really need an engineer. He was pretty much brilliant at that, too.
Michael B. Nelson: Prince sent me the song and there is a version that got released with Andy Allo rapping on it. So he said, “Where the rap is at write something for the horns.” What’s interesting about “Xtraloveable” is there were synth horn parts throughout it…the classic Prince synth horns. So we played along with those, but then another thing I did with Prince tracks that I knew he liked was anytime there was some space, I would throw something interesting in there if I heard it in my head.
Peter Asher the producer (who has overseen albums by the legendary likes of James Taylor, Linda Rondstadt and Morrissey) happened to be visiting Paisley Park and was sitting in on the “Xtraloveable” session. Prince was giving him a tour and afterwards we went back into the control room. And Prince is grooving to it. And when that horn solo came on he just popped up from his chair, kicked over the garbage can and yelled, “That’s it!” and walked out [laughs]. That was the approval from Prince that you loved to see.
I was sitting in my office and my cellphone started blowing up. Somebody said that there had been a death at Paisley Park. My first thought was it can’t be Prince. — Michael B. Nelson
John Blackwell (Longtime New Power Generation drummer and Prince collaborator): It’s all true. Prince would usually play everything on his records. But whenever he recorded with the band he would say, “Bass player, you play this, drummer, you play this, keyboardist you play this.” Prince would arrange everything in his head, even the horn parts. That’s how “2YTD” (“Too Young To Dare”) came about. It felt good…it was a funky song…reminded me of Al Green. Everybody had a smile on their face after it was done.
Ledisi Anibade Young (Nine-time Grammy nominated vocalist. Contributed backup vocals on HitnRUN Phase Two): Prince called out of the blue and said, “Hey, I want you to come record some songs with me and just hang out in Minneapolis.” I was there for a minute, but I didn’t care. For Prince to invite me out was amazing to me. You have to understand, he’s very picky about who he allows in his circle.
Michael B. Nelson: “Groovy Potential” was a song Prince pretty much gave me carte blanche on. There’s some obvious turn-around licks and things like that all over that track, but the woodwind, muted brass riff is something I had written because I always challenged myself by giving Prince something interesting. It has 10 horns on it. And on the end of “Groovy Potential” Prince goes into this cool funk vamp.
There’s some low, funky horn stuff there too, but that’s not how I wrote it. This’s why Prince is a genius. He would actually move around some of the horn arrangements himself. He took stuff out and played with it a little bit. That’s what made it fun for me at the end of the day. I gave Prince all this stuff to mess with…now what was he going to do with it?
Working with him was like being enrolled in a college university. He was the professor and we were the students. — John Blackwell
Justin Stanley: Prince had the most amazing horn section. It was amazing to see him arrange on the spot. He had all the parts in his head and they weren’t simple horn parts. That was the thing about Prince. He made you strive for perfection. Just imagine playing drums for him. That’s how I started in music…as a drummer. So one evening Prince comes to me and says, “Can you play?”
He was trying to find the right percussion sound for a track on the album. So I go into the studio, and Prince was basically engineering the drum sound. He turns on the mic and says, “Play ‘Superstition’” (Stevie Wonder’s 1972 hit). I’m playing the drums and Prince jumps on the clavinet and we were just jamming for like 15 minutes straight! After that he turns around and says, “You’re hired.” [Laughs]
Michael B. Nelson: One of my favorite [Phase II] songs is “Black Muse.” When you listen to it, it’s really two tracks. The second part of the song is called “1000 Light Years Away.” That song was pretty much wide open for me. With any Prince tune, whether he gave me a guide track or not there’s always things in his songs that are unique that only Prince would do.
The back half of “Black Muse” has more to grab on to. I started doing a lot of double ensemble recording where I would take the normal Hornheads instrumentation—which was two trumpets, a tenor sax, a trombone and baritone sax—the classic horn section sound. Then I would write another ensemble with flute, clarinet, and muted brass and play them off each other for a different texture.
John Blackwell: “Black Muse” was more like jazz-fusion. It kind of reminded me of when it was just him and me in the studio recording The Rainbow Children album. Prince would say that he wanted me to look at any music that we were doing as if it was from all of us. Working with him was like being enrolled in a college university. He was the professor and we were the students.
The New Girl (Spring 2013-Winter 2014)
Eryn Allen Kane (Vocalist featured on Prince’s Freddie Gray-inspired protest anthem “Baltimore.” Recently released her two-part debut EP Aviary: Act 1 and Act II.): Prince actually found me. I had released a song that was all acapella, which I produced and wrote called “Hollow.” And somehow Prince heard my song through an artist who actually posted my work. One day I saw an email that read “The Purple One sent a notification to your YouTube.” I just laughed because I knew they weren’t talking about Prince! But lo and behold he posted the link to my song on Twitter. And then shortly after that his camp reached out to us. It’s crazy. I’m nobody. I’m just a kid from Detroit…I didn’t have a pot to piss in and here he is paying attention to the little moves that I was making. It meant the world to me.
John Blackwell: I think Prince loved being a mentor to new artists. He had been there done that, so when it came to working with younger artists [during the HitnRUN period], whether it was Kendrick Lamar or 3rd Eye Girl, he loved giving them direction. He always told me, “John, never give up your masters if you get a record deal. And always make sure you retain your publishing.” Your legacy will be set. Instead of it benefitting a record executive’s kid it should benefit your kids.
Ledisi: Prince would always reach out to up and coming talent. That’s what I loved about him… his advocacy when it came to new talent. He would always preach music ownership. That’s what he wanted to be known for.
Justin Stanley: While we were finishing up songs for [Phase II], Prince flew in the head of a huge publishing company and his lawyer just to debate the rights of musicians. It was amazing being a fly on the wall during their debate. These guys, I have to give it to them. They kind of went through the ringer because Prince was so smart about artist’s ownership rights. Prince won the debate. He would never do anything without knowing he couldn’t win whether it was music or table tennis [laughs].
He just gave me this inspirational talk like “Eryn, you can be the voice of your generation. Your songs are like Negro spirituals. You have to carry that torch. — Eryn Allen Kane
John Blackwell: One of the first [Phase II] songs we recorded was “Revelation.” When we were working on that everybody was just excited. We all looked at each other like, “Man, this song is going to be crazy!” It just felt special.
Andrew Gouche: Prince loved to jam. So a lot of the HitnRUN songs came out of us having jam sessions from the skeleton songs that were in his head. “Revelation” was one of those tracks. I was just doing a vibe on the bass and it morphed into a song. I play six string bass and Prince played four string. So I tried to get him to play my bass and he backed away from it like it was the plague [laughs]. He never touched my bass.
John Blackwell: Another song that gave me that same feeling was “Look At Me, Look At U.” It’s one of my favorites off the record. I like songs that are in the key of C minor. There’s another track that Prince made in C minor that was on his first album called “Crazy You.” So when we did “Look At Me, Look At U” I already knew it was going to be my favorite.
Michael B. Nelson: Prince sent [“Look At Me, Look At U”] to us to produce the strings. He was always trying different things. Just listen to that accordion on “When She Comes,” which was a surprise to me. But the first time he gave “When She Comes” to me there were no vocals on it. Prince told me it was an instrumental. It was so wide open that I didn’t feel comfortable writing for it.
He later gave me a vocal version of the song and I did a pretty full arrangement, but what really surprised me was that rhythm section and the melody he put over the top, which was brilliant. I’m thinking, “Man, never in a million years would I think this would work over that.” If you listen to how he sings the blues phrases over the descending jazz chords it’s like, “Wow!”
Ledisi: Being in the studio with Prince felt like two friends hanging out. It was just me, him and the engineer working on a song called “Big City.” This wasn’t flashy Prince; this was Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis at his house hanging out. So when I started to record my vocals and make mistakes he would say, “Oh, I love that. I love your mistakes. Don’t stop…keep going.”
Or if I would curse a little he would say, “Ledisi…just keep going and no cursing, please.” [Laughs]. I would always forget that because I cussed when I recorded. Around Prince, I just remained myself. I think that’s what he loved about our relationship. I was just me all the time.
Michael B. Nelson: That’s our horns on the intro to “Big City,” but there’s a whole extra set of horn tracks on there as well. Prince brought in his touring horn section (the NPG Horns). They have a much looser, funkier sound. I grew up listening to big band and I was very much a be bop and jazz musician. So my musical background was very different from Prince’s. When I started to work with him, I started listening to some James Brown and Sly Stone, but they were not part of my early influences.
Justin Stanley: Prince had this really cheap, cheesy Yamaha keyboard he would sometimes play [laughs]. The one you would get for a child with all the pre-programmed sounds. And I knew that he had all these amazing synth keyboards that he used in the ‘80s like the Oberheim OB Synth and the Mini Moog. So I asked him, “Where are all those keyboards?” And Prince gave me the keys to his warehouse.
I don’t know if you ever saw the end of Citizen Kane, but that’s how Prince’s warehouse looked inside. It was basically every set from the beginning when he first started. I saw every bit of Prince’s clothing, every bit of gear, every instrument…it went on for days. It felt like I was in a candy store of musical history. So we found all of the vintage synths and I set them all back up at the studio. But the funny thing was Prince kept going back to that Yamaha keyboard. Even though it was cheap Prince made it sound cool.
Michael B. Nelson: We didn’t play on “Stare,” which has more of a James Brown thing. That bassline is great. You listen to that song and it sounds like they were just in that studio working it out with Prince. His horn writing with the right tune will always connect with James. But if you listen to an album like the Symbol project, where he was pretty much dictating the horn-lines, that was more than James Brown. Prince was doing some very out-there stuff with the horns on that record.
Like everyone else I just underestimated how much he was in pain. — Miles Marshall Lewis
May You Live To See The Dawn (Summer 2015-Spring 2016)
Michael B. Nelson: “Baltimore was actually the last track we recorded when the Freddie Gray [tragedy] took place. I have to admit that as a horn player and instrumentalist, as a rule I don’t listen to lyrics a lot. But I certainly didn’t miss the lyrics on “Baltimore.” I think the death of Freddie Gray was an important thing to address. I support someone like Prince putting a message out like that. Some people criticized him for that, but that’s an important part of art.
Eryn Allen Kane: I had just arrived at Paisley Park to record the “Baltimore” song. Prince says, “I’m going to have Josh [Welton] play the song for you. And afterwards he’s going to give me a call to let me know if you like it or not.” So we listened to the song and Josh was like, “Okay, I’m going to call him back…” And I’m pooping in my pants [laughs]. So Prince goes, “So what you think?” I told him it was really cool. And then he said, “Okay, but it needs some of your soul on it.” I was like, “Wow.”
I’m asking him, “What do you want me to do?” And Prince just says, “Do whatever you do…whatever it is you feel.” So I went into the studio and I recorded my part and after doing so we had a couple of notes to add, but he kept everything that I did. I couldn’t believe it.
Michael B. Nelson: “Baltimore” is in a completely different category than the other songs we worked on for Phase II. In 2012, Prince’s longtime string arranger Clare Fischer passed away. Sometime that year, Prince contacted me about producing strings for some songs. I brought on Adi Yeshaya and Stringenius to work on the fuller orchestral arrangements.
But Prince’s specific instruction was to have the strings play the guitar solo, which was a really great idea. “Baltimore” was the testing ground for the orchestration work Prince wanted to do. He kept throwing harder and harder tracks at us just to see how far we could go with it. When we finished he sent us a link to it with an email that read, “Mike, after listening to this you can tell that we are on the brink of some landmark recordings this summer. We truly want to keep going in this direction.”
Prince loved to jam. So a lot of the HitnRUN songs came out of us having jam sessions from the skeleton songs that were in his head. — Andrew Gouche
Andrew Gouche: The coolest moment I ever had with Prince when we were making [Phase II] was when I had my equipment shipped to Paisley Park. I walked in one day ready to record and Prince was playing through my bass rig and Blackwell was playing drums. And they were running through the Time’s “777-9311.” Prince was killing that shit so hard for almost 30 minutes straight! It’s funny because you think you know Prince songs as a musician, but to actually see the guy that played the bass on those actual records, that was a real A Ha! moment for me. Me and the keyboard player just stood there literally watching in awe.
Justin Stanley: But with Prince it goes beyond the music. He was a very giving guy. Just talk to some of his past band members. He would stop in their local town and go to their old school and write out a check for $100 grand. But you would never hear about it. He was so generous of his time.
Eryn Allen Kane: Now mind you, this man didn’t really know me, but he was really supportive. Prince calls and says, “Hey, do you want to come perform the song with me in Baltimore for the Rally 4 Peace concert?” And I was like, “Um…when is it?” And Prince goes, “Tomorrow.” This man kept giving me heart attacks! [Laughs] My mom and family live in DC, so we are all at the Baltimore show. Everybody was there…Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Questlove (of the Roots). Before I even went onstage Prince goes, “Eryn, come here. I want to practice with you.” I go in the dressing room and I’m sitting there and Prince is tuning his guitar. And I start getting tears in my eyes.
I said to him, “Can I tell you something? Three years ago, I was at the United Center in Chicago. You were there for three days and I couldn’t afford tickets, but on your last day I mustered up $40 dollars to go to your show. And I sat in the nosebleed section. I sat there crying like, “I will never be in the nosebleed seat again!” When I saw Janelle Monae pop up onstage, I kinda got jealous like, “Well, I guess that will never happen to me.” And Prince says, “I have a feeling that things are going to be a little different tonight. You are exactly where you are supposed to be.”
Michael B. Nelson: It’s one thing to write a song like “Baltimore,” of which I was honored to be a part of. I knew how important that song was to him. But it was so important for Prince to go to the city of Baltimore and do a concert for the people.
Eryn Allen Kane: The family of Freddie Gray was there. It was really a moment for me…for all of us. We went over the song “Baltimore” before we hit the stage. And one of the couches in the room ended up breaking because all the background singers were piled in. Prince just started cracking up. He said, “As long as I’m black, I ain’t never going to forget that!” [Laughs]
Justin Stanley: We were almost finished with the album and Prince tells me to set up his mic and that he would call me when he was done. So it’s probably around 6 in the evening and I had left the studio. Prince calls me in the next morning. I walk into the studio and he’s already recorded every lead vocal to every song on that record! It was the most amazing thing. That just blew my mind.
Miles Marshall Lewis (Former VIBE editor; writer and author of There’s a Riot Goin’ On and Scars of the Soul Are Why Kids Wear Bandages When They Don’t Have Bruises): I was hoping that I would get an audience with Prince. This was in August 2015. I got an email from Paisley Park and they wanted me to interview Joshua Welton, who co-produced some of the HitnRUN Phase One album, which had just come out. Prince had just linked up with Tidal and he wanted to get the word out. I was writing for Ebony at the time and I remember Prince was in a very good mood. He kept fooling with his Afro and had his eyeliner on. He was pure Prince.
Toward the end of the interview, we were alone in Studio A at Paisley Park with his assistant. And Prince kept mentioning a song that he wanted to play for me. His assistant then takes me outside and Prince drives around in his Cadillac and swings open the doors. He played me the track along with the entire HitnRUN Phase Two album. I asked him if it was near finished and he looked at me and said, “It’s done.” I just shook my head like, “My bad.” [Laughs]. I was like this motherfu*ker finished a whole other album that nobody knows about.
You really can’t touch on how great Prince was. He had a real dedication to music and lived it 24/7. — Justin Stanley
Michael B. Nelson: I was sitting in my office and my cellphone started blowing up. Somebody said that there had been a death at Paisley Park. My first thought was it can’t be Prince. But within 10 to 15 minutes I found it was true. I had this conversation with a lot of his peers who have worked with him. I think I had the same reaction that everybody else did. Prince never really seemed completely of this world in the first place. He was mystical in the way he was. His mortality never occurred to me. So I was so really taken aback by his death.
Justin Stanley: I was having coffee and I got a text from my wife. [Stanley pauses for a moment, clearly overtaken by emotion.]. I still can’t talk about it. You really can’t touch on how great Prince was. He had a real dedication to music and lived it 24/7.
John Blackwell: I cried all day when I heard the news. I felt horrible that I wasn’t able to patch whatever things that we had between us. Just to say I love you, I forgive you, do you forgive me? Me and Prince were like, and don’t take this the wrong way, girlfriend and boyfriend [laughs]. You have your moments when you have falling outs and then your make-ups. That’s how it was with that guy.
Prince was very demanding and sometimes things would get crazy. And I’m like, “Man, I’m going home.” Then I get home and see my wife and my kids and I’m telling her, “Oh, I’m so happy to see you! I had to get away from Prince.” And then my wife starts acting crazy and I call Prince and say, “Hey, man…you got any studio work?” Can I get up there? [Laughs] Prince expected everybody to be as good as him. He always wanted me to see music as belonging to everybody.
Ledisi: I remember we did this gig at Coachella. Prince’s playing was amazing that night. Just to see somebody play all of these instruments from the big arenas to just the intimate space. That’s what he gave no matter where he was at. He would do that same great guitar solo if he were in front of eight people. Prince just loved music. That’s his legacy. He was proud of his culture…his people. I don’t like to talk about him as if he’s gone. I feel like Prince is still here. I’m not done letting him go.
Andrew Gouche: Someone asked me, “Well, did you ever see him taking painkillers?” No. All I ever saw was Prince eating right. He didn’t even swear. And you weren’t allowed to swear around him. Prince’s life was an example. I lost 40 pounds when I started working for that dude. I was like if Prince can do it, I can do it. He was such an inspiration to me. He did it by example. He didn’t preach. He wasn’t lecturing you. But you saw how he lived.
Miles Marshall Lewis: Like everyone else I just underestimated how much he was in pain. I was aware that he had some kind of hip surgery some years ago and that he wasn’t doing the splits that he used to do now that he was in his mid 50s. But I never thought it would be drugs. I’m still in shock. Prince had his ways. He liked to be in control. I’m willing to entertain all conspiracy theories. Because that wasn’t the Prince we knew.
Eryn Allen Kane: I get emotional thinking about the brief moments we shared together. We stayed in the dressing room for about an hour before we went onstage. He just gave me this inspirational talk like “Eryn, you can be the voice of your generation. Your songs are like Negro spirituals. You have to carry that torch. We have already done it. It’s time for others to step up.” I didn’t even believe in myself at that point. For Prince to say that to somebody he had just met was crazy. Prince was the best, man.